Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Stab at Olympic Distance

NYC Triathlon 2010

As I'd hoped, Sunday morning around 9:15 or so it was nothing but smiles from me! Somehow I managed to pull off what felt like the perfect race. Going into the NYC Triathlon I wasn't sure what to expect from my body. Sure, I had trained smart and hard and I knew I was up for the challenges ahead, but just like trying anything new I was just a touch unsure. It turns out, any doubts in the back of my head were unfounded and I walked away with a medal, a smile and a new passion.

The morning began early- 4am alarm followed by nervous munching of bagel with PB that never fails to taste like cardboard on race day. My darling hubby was sweet enough to get up and head to the start with me so we zombied our way out to the cab. In an annoying twist of NYC fate, we couldn't exit the West side highway at 79th (mental note: get off at 96th next year) because of the triathlon (I knew it was a possibility) so we had to fight the traffic around 56th st and turn and go uptown with all of the other confused cars because the WSH northbound was shut down for the race. Eeeeeeeek, sitting in traffic mere blocks from where I needed to be was making me anxious and finally I blurted out "let us out up here!" and we were on our way.

After a quick stop to arrange my shoes, hat, watch, and whatever else at the transition area, Hubs and I high-tailed it to the swim start over a mile away. Once there, I felt a little calmer, but in reality I should have been in the port-o-potty line much sooner and hustling instead of munching my banana and putting on body glide (which by the way, I've never used and will never use again because I see no point to it. I don't chafe. Go ahead, curse me.) After a frantic few mins in the port-o-potty line I ran to my corral for the swim start as it started to inch forward. Yikes, close one.

The Swim
I'm in the blue tank

I hopped right into the water and missed grabbing the infamous rope by an inch so I had to be rescued by fellow swimmers and pulled to the rope to prevent me from floating away in the current. Thanks ladies. The current was strong (in our favor) and the water was a nice temp, 75 I believe. As the horn blew, we took off in the usual frenzy of arms, caps, feet, neoprene smacks that accompany an open water swim. The difference between me and all of the other 25-29ers? I had no wetsuit. I felt freeeee and took off like a little fishy downstream. After about a minute or so of swimming I had a thought "Wow, I'm swimming in the Hudson River! This is so cool!" Contrary to VERY popular belief, the water was not disgusting or full of trash and bodies, but it was much like swimming in the ocean- salty, dark and you can't see very far ahead of you. I bumped into a few odd things and immediately thought "ack jellyfish!" but no, just my imagination. The swim was really, really great though. The tide assist made you feel like you were really cruising, but don't get me wrong- I was swimming hard. I gradually caught up to the wave of purple caps that had left ahead of us and was happy about that, but at the same time it was annoying because "back of the pack" swimmers are not the straightest swimmers and I got bumped into a bunch of times as I made my way through their pack. As promised, some buff lifeguard pulled me out of the water and onto the pontoon. My watch read 17:36, but with the trot up the ramp my official time was 17:52, good enough for 618th overall (they keep changing the # of actual finishers) which was 35th in my age group of 260 women. Sweet, but no time to stop and chat about it... I was off and running to the bike.

After a nearly 1/2 mi barefoot run to the transition area, I popped on my helmet, bike shoes and stuffed an extra bike tube and some GU chomps into my pockets and I was off.

The Bike

The NYC Tri crew gives everyone every scary details about the bike including phrases like "the bike route contains 5 VERY TECHNICAL turns and a steep hill at the start" which I can only imagine are to frighten the riders into being extra careful. On one hand I'm really glad they say that so people are prepared and (hopefully) hyper vigilant about the turns, but on the other hand- way to freak me out! Sheesh. The bike began on a narrow, busy path with the finished swimmers on one side and beginning bikers on the other, but everyone was moving slowly and cautiously. The first turn is maybe 100 degrees and starts with a mild uphill that gets steeper as you go along, but I'd left my bike in a nice, easy gear so I cruised up the hill with no problems. The next few turns were simple and before I knew it we were on the WSH and we were flying! I had prepared myself for a bigger crowd, but because of our early start the only spots that I encountered crowds was on the hills. I have found that being a strong hill runner does in fact translate a bit to being a strong hill cyclist and I worked somewhat hard, but really wasn't slowed down by the hills. My favorite parts were riding past my neighborhood (and next to my running path along the greenway!), through the tolls and across the Henry Hudson Bridge (how fun is it to RIDE through the toll booth?!). It was exhilarating and I enjoyed every minute of it, despite keeping up a solid effort. Somewhere just before the turnaround on Gun Hill Rd in the Bronx, a stray thought wandered into my head, "this race isn't nearly long enough, I can't believe we're about to turn around already!" Where did THAT come from? As expected, I managed a decent but not stellar bike portion and finished the 25 miles in 1:30, an avg speed of 16.4mph. I'd thought it was faster, but I think the entering and exiting of transition area was so slow that it brought me down, but whatever. 1:30 was my exact A-goal and I'm more than happy with it!

In T2 (which I've dubbed "the warzone") I did a quick shoe change while overhearing one woman explain to another that her crap was on the wrong side of the rack. The accused woman was clueless and said "yeah, but someone turned my bike around overnight" and another explained to her that "yes, that is because you had it facing the wrong way." It was all in a very friendly "I'm trying to help you understand this" manner and I got a good chuckle out of it between bites of PB&J and putting my visor on. I had experienced nothing but friendly, helpful chatter all day... I don't care what they say about triathletes, they're a nice bunch.

The Run

The initial 1/2 mile or so of the run was uphill, much like the bike. While it sucks that the run has to start uphill when you're already a little unsteady on your feet, that's just the only way out of Riverside park. I expected to feel like lead for the first 5 mins or so as I have in the past on brick runs, but instead I felt GOOD. Like, really good. It was tough, don't get me wrong but I wasn't feeling tight or heavy or like someone had put cement in my shoes like I did at Harriman. I did a "systems check" and felt that I'd hydrated really well on the bike, the PB&J + banana sandwich was making its way down smoothly and my legs were ready to move. It was almost like my legs were running away from me for most of the run. I was super excited going along 72nd St because of the crowds, but also because I knew that Elyssa and Hubs were waiting for me by CPW. I noticed that I had forgotten to take the GU chomps out of my shorts and I'd also forgotten to take the extra bike tube out of my pocket, so I tossed the chomps into a trashcan and held the tube until I saw E and hubs. They didn't understand why I had it and mistakenly thought it was an indication that I'd gotten a flat on the ride. Nope, just a Team Dork moment. I trotted past them and into the park where I proceeded to hunt down and pass a ton of people. At the risk of sounding completely self-absorbed, I passed EVERYONE that I encountered on the run. There was one elite looking dude that blew past me just after we entered the park, but otherwise I just chugged along smiling and practically dancing through the miles. It was HOT, hot, HOT so I stopped at every water station along the way and drank a cup of water and poured another cup over my head and body. The first 3 miles were in the shade, but as we turned the corner at the very top of the park and the sun began to beat down on me, it got hot. I never felt overheated or uncomfortably hot though, thanks to being soaked from cups of water and hoses along the way. I trotted along at an unbelievable 7:24 avg pace and cranked out the final mile at something like 7:14. To be honest, I don't know how I did it! I didn't look down at my watch more than twice and just pushed as hard as I could because I was so excited and happy because I knew I was going to make my goal time even if I slowed significantly. As I crossed the finish and looked down at my run time, I was shocked to realized that not only did I destroy my goal time for the tri (sub-3) but I'd PRed in the run by at least 2 minutes. The grins associated with that still haven't faded. It turns out I was 6th in my age group on the run and 197th overall.

As I floated through the crowded finish area with my ice-cold Toyota towel around my neck I collected my medal, some water, and other misc items like an orange and my checked bag from the start. As luck would have it, while collecting my checked bag the guy next to me had also grabbed too much water and fruit and was trying to free up a hand by sticking his banana into his tri shorts. I looked at him with wide eyes and an "I can't believe this is happening" look on my face and laughed. I managed to choke out "Is that I bana..... no, too easy.." before laughing again. He laughed and said "Oh we're beyond that at this point..." Ahh, a classic moment that was meant for my 8th grader sense of humor.

Happy Finisher

With a spring in my step I walked out to meet with E and hubs even though we hadn't established a meeting spot. Oops. Luckily for us, the race had set up signs indicating "Family reunion letters A-C" etc and we easily found each other. I probably chattered at them incoherently for a while before we went off to Popover cafe to devour some brunch. It was the ideal ending to a perfect morning.

The takeaway from Sunday- I love triathlons and am pretty durned good at them. Call it beginner's luck, but nothing went wrong and I actually feel great today (yesterday I was sore though) and I can't wait for the next tri. I really loved every minute of it and I enjoyed the people and atmosphere that accompanied the entire day. Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way- special shout outs to my hubby who put up with training and a 4am wakeup, Elyssa who is always there with advice and support and to Peter who generously gave me tidbits of advice that really made a huge difference in how smoothly my day went. And with that, my Oscar acceptance speech is over. ;)

Tossing my extra tube to E

I love this pic that E took, I look ripped :) hahaha.


  1. nice work chika! great race! you just reminded me of something i totally overlooked, YES it WAS awesome riding through tollbooths!

  2. Great report. You totally rocked it on a brutally hot day.

  3. Great report and great race! Hope to see you out at a future race. I just signed up for the inaugural Hip Town Tri, in Red Bank, in Oct.

  4. What a fun post! You have every right to be as excited as you are - everything clicked. We train for races to get that feeling. Congrats again - well earned and good job of representing (not too much though!).

  5. Amazing performance. And all smiles!

  6. Holy crap Amy. I am still stunned that you had to run barefoot for half a mile--and that didn't count towards your 10k. You are incredibly fit.

  7. You look to be having way too much fun out there, especially at the finish. A good job. (And there was a movie in which two riders went through the toll booths, "Key Exchange.")

  8. Nice job on the Olympic Distance. I did that race a couple years ago. It was a lot of fun.